On December 7, 1846, the very next day after the Battle of San Pasqual, the wounded General Kearny, set out with his soldiers towards San Diego. Following a route that is believed to go the way of the present day “Old San Pasqual Road,” the American force, having just buried its dead the night before, now straggled with its wounded towards the present-day site of Escondido, California’s “Kit Carson Park.” Kearny was headed towards an adobe there where he might find some food provisions in the form of chickens, cows, etc. in addition to some fresh water that ran from a natural spring-fed creek at that site.
It was at this site that Kearny and his soldiers stopped for no more than a few hours before venturing off south towards San Diego and coming under immediate attack by the Mexicans once again. By 1991, this site had never been known or discovered. In a military sense, this site is not overly important. However, there was speculation as to where this exact location was at. No one knew exactly where Kearny had stopped his soldiers just prior to being attacked again at Mule Hill.
Historian Cloyd Sorensen had identified a site among some trees inside Kit Carson Park in Escondido, California. This site was located adjacent the road, “Bear Valley Parkway.” It was here that Sorensen felt was the site of the Snook Adobe. The location did show remnants of an old barn. It sat across the street from the local fire station. With no historical or archaeological evidence to support it, this location remained, at best, a good guess.
However, years later, a second site had been located and identified as the possible location of the Snook Adobe Site. This site was discovered by an individual later identified by the Acting Chief, Division of History for the Southwest Region, as a “ local surveyor and avid Mexican War enthusiast.” The local surveyor had studied 1928 aerials taken of the area and now housed at the San Diego Historical Society Archives. He observed a small dark and abnormal feature on the side of a vacant hill. This, along with other research, led him to this new site. He had done good research work and felt that this location was in fact where the original Snook Adobe was located.
The site itself was sitting just outside of the northwest corner of Kit Carson Park, approximately 200 feet, on the side of a hill now located inside of a neighborhood and more specifically, inside the backyard of a residence located at the end of Sierra Drive in Escondido, California.
The local surveyor and Mexican War enthusiast had acknowledged that the then, original owner of the house, a lonely widow, had shown him a silver dollar dated 1852. It had been found by her young nephew while playing in the backyard. She also showed the war enthusiast a collection of old mule shoes dug up in her backyard. However, as he later explained well, this was no conclusive evidence that this was the site of Mrs. Snook’s adobe. Indeed, anyone could have merely dropped the coin or, in the 1800’s, had an animal pen on the site. To investigate this further, he later applied a basic archaeology technique – a trench dig. After carefully choosing a location at the bottom of the hill in the backyard (figuring gravity would pull artifacts downward), he dug a trench. Dug deep and long, it later revealed nothing but pieces of broken china. Although the china could be dated back to the late 1800’s, this could do little in verifying the exact location of the adobe or, to confirm that this site was in fact the location where General Kearny stopped just before coming under attack at Mule Hill.
By 1992, after spending over six months investigating the archaeological work of Douglas Scott and Richard Fox at the Little Big Horn (Custer) Battlefield in Crow Agency, Montana, the SLP took a fresh look in 1995 at the local surveyor and war-enthusiast’s suspected Snook Adobe site.
The San Pasqual Battlefield Site Location Project, after obtaining permission from the property owner and working with the State Ranger at the Battlefield Museum, decided to apply the modern field-survey techniques employed by Little Big Horn archaeologists, Scott and Fox. A grid pattern was set up across the backyard, and leading downward towards a nearby creek that still flows natural water. Working in cooperation with both the Battlefield Museum and the SLP, a professional metal detectist volunteered to assist in the field survey to be conducted in the backyard of the residence located on Sierra Drive in Escondido. The sweep, and the modern archaeological approach to locating artifacts from the historical (metal) period, paid off. Remarkable finds were made during the sweep.
The Snook adobe site was a civilian site. We know that the United States Army was at this adobe site at least twice. The first time was on December 7th, 1846, one day after the Battle of San Pasqual. The second time was approximately twenty days later when the army was moving back north to Los Angeles from San Diego. The second time, officers only, lodged at the adobe while their soldiers camped on nearby Mule Hill. Without positive proof that this was in fact the adobe site belonging to Mrs. Snook, the only other credible evidence would be military related artifacts. During the SLP sweep at Sierra Drive, the following artifacts were recovered:
- Flying Eagle Button (circa. 1846)
- Silver Military Button
- Copper Rivet w/Naval Insignia
- 2 Copper rivets
- Military Spear-Fish Pitchfork
- Spent Musket Ball
- 4 Nails
- 3 Pieces of Dark Glass
- 2 Muleshoes
- Copper Cannon Ball 4.3 lbs. 3.05 Diameter
All these artifacts were consistent with other artifact finds discovered both atop Mule Hill and at the San Pasqual Battlefield, being found buried at a depth of three inches.
The Flying Eagle Button, was confirmed standard 1846 issue for these soldiers and is an identical match for the same type of issued buttons found atop Mule Hill as well.
Item-three, displayed a Naval insignia (ship’s anchor), which is very unique because it is an item definitely symbolic of naval service. This is odd given it is found among items associated with the U.S. Army; however, we know that United States Navy personnel were among those involved at the Battle of San Pasqual and Mule Hill.
Item #5, the small pitchfork, was confirmed at Fort Leavenworth Military Museum as being standard issue to General Kearny’s men for spear fishing at rivers and streams for fresh food by the soldiers.
The most remarkable find was a cannonball, lying just where it had no doubt been dropped over 150 years earlier. The fact that it was “copper” was extremely significant. The howitzers that accompanied General Kearny’s men did not use copper for cannonballs nor was the size of the ball consistent for use in a mountain howitzer. Upon further research by the SLP, it was found that the Russian-made “Sutter Gun,” that had been brought along by Captain Gillespie and his men, in fact used the balls that had come with the gun. The 3.05 diameter of the ball and its weight fit perfectly with the size and weight of cannonballs required for this specific gun. In addition, Russia was pouring cannonballs of copper during this time and not iron or lead.
The site was designated by the SLP as site SLP-S-9. It was recognized that this location was also consistent with Emory’s topographical sketch, noting the location of where they had stopped. It is along the side and base of a hill and, adjacent to a natural spring-fed creek (that still exists at this site today) as shown on Emory’s map. This site is also approximately half-a-mile from Mule Hill.
The location of this creek near this site is important as we know it was being used by the soldiers to water their mounts and, fill their canteens with water for themselves too. It is also known that Mrs. Snook used some local San Dieguito Indians to tend to her adobe site. Mrs. Snook resided at the time nearly twenty-five miles southwest in San Diego Old Town. It is known that the remnants of an Indian Village were discovered and confirmed by archaeologists just on the other side (east) of this creek. It lies north of the Kit Carson Park boundary and opposite site SLP-S-9, discovered when construction began of a new residential community there and then, later reburied by archaeologists.
“As suddenly he (Kearny) moved down to Snooks’ house, in front of which is a clump of 20 or 30 sycamore trees.”
“At about 2:00 p.m. we arrived at the Rancho of San Bernardo, where we saw signs of the enemy having but lately retired from that point. The Indians told me, that they had brought to the Rancho some fifteen or eighteen wounded, one mortally and nearly dead; that upon leaving, they said they were going to Los Angeles. After a short rest and watering, we proceeded on the march, .. “
Captain A. Gillespie
The “local surveyor and avid Mexican War enthusiast” must receive credit for finding this site. Despite his failed attempt to locate any evidence that the site was the location of the Snook Adobe, it was still responsible for leading the SLP to the site. Being able to use modern and professional techniques employed from other battlefield surveys, the SLP was able to finally confirm that military personnel from 1846 were probably indeed at this site and thus validate the land surveyor’s suspicion that this location was indeed where Mrs. Snook’s adobe was located. His educated guess was that the present house might be sitting right on top of where the original adobe once stood.
From an academic standpoint, it had been known for some time that General Kearny and his men were attacked by General Pico and his Greyhounds, somewhere on the valley floor between the present-day Mule Hill and Old Highway 395 running parallel (just west of) with the present-day Interstate-15. This attack occurred after they had left the Snook Adobe site.
However, circumstantial evidence, subjected to certain speculation, hints that Kearny’s men may have gotten advanced notice of the attack while resting at the Snook adobe site. Clues to this are heard from some of the men who were there.
In an interview with Judge Benjamin Hayes, Philip Crosthwaite describes leaving the Snook adobe :
“The Americans had just left the house, after securing some chickens for the wounded – the family had gone away – when the Californians came sweeping out of the wooded Canada [canyon] north of the house, over the hill and down both sides of the house, ..”
In an interview with Major Swords just a month after this event, a reporter from the Sandwich Island News on January 13, 1847 wrote:
“Upon arriving at the valley of San Bernardo, a body of the enemy who had secreted themselves, made an attack upon their rear …”
What is interestingly noted in the artifacts discovered at this site, specifically with two, is how important both items were and, yet they were discarded and left behind. The cannonball, especially if for the Sutter Gun, was extremely important because they would have had only so many balls to go with this particular cannon. The cannon had been transported all the way from northern California, was now accompanying General Kearny and his men and, the weapon was soon destined to head back up towards Los Angeles if needed. The fact that the ball was dropped and just left behind where it was at is significant.
Another item is the small spear-fishing pitchfork. It was used to catch fresh food. The soldiers had just crossed the desert. Their uniforms were in tatters and their boots falling apart. They had few provisions and such an item, if this artifact is truly associated with them, would not have been so easily left behind. Like the cannonball, why was this item left on this hillside?
One “spent” musket ball was found in this debris field. Were these soldiers under fire from the Californios and perhaps why they may have left hurriedly, leaving behind important equipment?
Do these items indicate that the soldiers were rushed out of the Snook adobe site that afternoon? If so, why? Did they come under impending attack first, at the Snook Adobe? If so, were the orders intentional to move out onto the valley floor immediately? Does the square formation they were moving in (the wounded were in the center) signal a plan to set into a defensive position to repel an attack from the rear? Did the Californios’ eventual attack and an enveloping movement upon Mule Hill change the American’s strategy at this point?
While all this is pure speculation, it calls for more archaeological and historical investigation of this site indeed.